Cultivating Administrative Support for a Clinical Ethics Consultation Service


Courtenay R. Bruce, Mary A. Majumder, Ashley Stephens, Janet Malek, and Amy McGuire


      Hospital administrators may lack familiarity with what clinical ethicists do (and do not do), and many clinical ethicists report receiving inadequate financial support for their clinical ethics consultation services (CECSs). Ethics consultation is distinct in that it is not reimbursable by third parties, and its financial benefit to the hospital may not be quantifiable. These peculiarities make it difficult for clinical ethicists to resort to tried-and-true outcome-centered evaluative strategies, like cost reduction or shortened length of stay for patients, to show a “need” for ethics consultation. Likewise, it can be difficult for clinical ethicists to “speak the same language” as healthcare administrators and managers, which, in turn, means that CECSs run the risk of being unable to demonstrate value to those who pay for the service.

      The purpose of this descriptive article is to provide practical guidance to clinical ethicists and program directors on how to cultivate administrative support for a CECS. Specifically, we discuss two elements that clinical ethics leaders must critically appraise and successfully argue to meet the expectations of administrators—the value of a CECS and its fit in clinical workflow.

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